There were tears in seventeen-year-old Latoya Kelly’s eyes as she hiked toward the small waterfall and realized this would be her last Hrtedyp. It was always held on the first full day after the Fall Equinox, precisely at 4:33 p.m. She had only been five when she had her first Hrtedyp, and that had been by accident. She had been camping with her parents and grandparents, and the tiny child wandered off. She had been lost, and hungry, and scared, but by the time Daddy found her, she was full of Bueno Nacho, Everlasting Gobstopper, and was laughing and singing in a language nobody knew anything about. She tried to tell Mommy and Daddy about the Hrtedyp, but they thought she’d fallen asleep and had a dream.
Every year, they’d camp in the same place to welcome autumn, but she hadn’t been able to sneak away again to attend the Hrtedyp until she was eight. Then, she always made an excuse, year after year, to go on a hike alone, always from just before four until right after sunset.
“Just look at her, Aimer. Our little girl is all grown up.” Lianlie gushed with all the pride of a mother.
“Don’t be daft, woman. She’s been growing up for years. It’s just that now she’s gone from a girl to a woman.” He was grousing at this wife to hide the heartbreak of knowing they’d never see Latoya again, and worse, she’d never be able to see them.
One by one, they zipped out from behind the falls, started twinkling in the crimson leaves of the overhanging tree, flitting around the stones at its base, then finally the Folk, as they called themselves, began the Hrtedyp.
The music, singing, and dancing (if you call flying in intricate airborne patterns “dancing”) was slow and solemn at first. Then all of a sudden, it turned into barely controlled chaos, and dark, lithe Latoya danced, twirled, and sang in the language of the Folk with as much wild abandon as the hundreds if firefly-sized fairies around her.
Gallons of Shrog and platters full of Bueno Nacho were consumed, and it never ceased to amaze the human being how such tiny creatures managed to eat so much. Why even Daddy, Grandpa, and her fifteen-year-old brother Delonn together couldn’t eat as much as old Cluym, the head of the clan, or younger Khidell, the biggest of the Folk (about the size of a beetle).
Most of all, though, she loved the Everlasting Gobstopper, so warm, and runny, and gooey, and sweet, but not too sweet, and the slightly tart aftertaste it left behind, sometimes for hours after she returned to her family. There were times weeks later when she’d wake up from a dream with that taste on her tongue.
But with dessert, came the song of farewell and the end of the Hrtedyp, her last Hrtedyp. One by one, they fluttered in front of her moist eyes to say good-bye. Even now, though they shined so brightly when she was a child, they looked very dim. By next year, even if she came back, they would be invisible. She wouldn’t be able to hear the songs and music, and it would be impossible to watch the dancing. No more Bueno Nacho. No more Everlasting Gobstopper. Ever.
The last one to bid Latoya farewell was Goll Umeleth. He had been the youngest of the Folk when they first met and in a way, they’d grown up together. If she didn’t know better, she would have sworn that he’d fallen in love with her. Of all the Folk, only he didn’t say a word of good-bye. He just looked into her eyes for the longest time. Then he quickly fluttered to her cheek, and she felt the tiniest, loveliest, saddest kiss. It made her shiver all over.
Then he was gone. They were all gone, back behind the waterfall, up into the burning leaves, behind the dewy, mossy rocks. They returned to wherever the Folk go between one Hrtedyp and the next.
“I love you.” She didn’t know if they could still hear her, or if she were talking just to the lot of them, or to sweet little Goll as well.
Then she turned. The sun was already half below the horizon. Latoya pulled her flashlight out of her backpack, put the pack on, and began the trek back to the campsite. How could she possibly explain to her family? In the past, after every one of her solitary hikes, she had returned joyous, dancing light as mist around the fire, and later falling asleep with a smile on her face. Tonight, she would be all melancholy, a slight frown on her lips, eyes wet and maybe shedding one or two tears, and even whimpering a little in her sleep. How could she explain that because she was growing up, she would never have another Hrtedyp?
Then she had a happy thought. Someday, she’d be married and have children of her own. Maybe this was her last Hrtedyp, but when each of her children turned five, she would quietly guide them to the same place by the falls arriving precisely at 4:33 p.m. on the first full day after the Fall Equinox. Then they would each have the first of many happy, happy Hrtedyps. She’d never be able to share it with them, but she could share in their happiness afterward.
She really hoped that by then, she’d still remember the aftertaste of Everlasting Gobstopper.
I wrote this both for the Fall #writephoto challenge hosted by Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo and the Tale Weaver – Making Sense of Nonsense – The Last Hrtedyp – 27th September challenge found at Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie.
For Sue’s challenge, participants use the photo posted at the top as the prompt for crafting a poem, short story, or other creative work.
For the Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie challenge, the idea is to use the phrase “The Last Hrtedyp” to do the same thing. Looking at the photo and trying to make sense of nonsense, the tale above is what happened.
Latoya’s name comes from a random name generator I typically use. I deliberately made Latoya and her family African-American because most of these stories usually don’t involve people of color, and I thought everyone deserved to celebrate the Hrtedyp. The elven Folk names come from a random fantasy name generator. For the fictional foods, I made up Shrog, but Bueno Nacho comes from the television show Kim Possible, and Everlasting Gobstopper can be found in Roald Dahl’s book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. My description of said-foods differs from their originals.